How You Can Learn About Martin Luther King Jr. Through These Kendrick Lamar Songs

Kendrick Lamar is a critically acclaimed rapper, songwriter, and record producer. He first gained widespread attention with his 2011 album Section.80 and has since become one of the most revered and influential artists in the hip-hop industry.

Kendrick Lamar’s artistry is known for its storytelling, social commentary, and technical proficiency. He often addresses issues such as race, poverty, and police brutality in his music, drawing inspiration from his upbringing in Compton, California. 

His 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly is considered a masterpiece and won a Grammy award for Best Rap Album. The album delves into the black experience and the complexities of success, and it was praised for its jazz-influenced production and Lamar’s introspective lyrics.

In addition to his Grammys, Kendrick Lamar has received numerous accolades for his work. He has won 12 BET Awards, six MTV Video Music Awards, and five Billboard Music Awards, among other honors. He was also included in Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2016.

One of the most notable aspects of Kendrick Lamar’s music is his frequent references to Martin Luther King Jr, the African-American civil rights activist, and leader who advocated for nonviolence and civil disobedience.

This is evident in many of his songs. Here are five tracks where Kendrick name-checks the famed Civil Rights leader. 

1. “HiiiPoWeR”

“Visions of Martin Luther staring at me/Malcolm X put a hex on my future/Someone catch me I’m falling victim to a revolutionary”

“HiiiPoWeR” was released as a single in 2011 and later included on his debut studio album Section.80, released in 2011. The song is about self-empowerment and overcoming barriers.

The song is produced by J. Cole and features a sample from the song “The World is a Ghetto” by War. “HiiiPoWeR” received positive reviews from critics, who praised its lyrics and production. The track has been considered one of the standout singles on Section.80.

2. “Fuck Your Ethnicity”

“Reporting live from Planet Terminator X, I saw Martin Luther King with an AK-47”

“F*ck Your Ethnicity” is an anthem of unity, in which Kendrick urges listeners to rise above their ethnic and racial backgrounds and come together as one people.

He raps about how people are often judged and divided based on ethnicity, encouraging them to reject these labels and instead embrace their shared humanity. “F*ck Your Ethnicity” is a statement about how the concept of race is a societal construct used to oppress people. Kendrick also expresses his pride for his ethnicity but encourages people not to let it define them.

3. “Ignorance is Bliss”

“I’ll make an album that’ll put a smile on Malcolm/Make Martin Luther tell God I’m the future for Heaven’s talent/No tarot card reading; I’m foreseeing you niggas vanish”

“Ignorance is Bliss” is from Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp a Butterfly. The song critically examines how individuals may choose to ignore social and political issues to maintain a sense of happiness.

Kendrick Lamar uses lyrics that depict the struggles of black Americans and how ignorance of these issues can be detrimental to their well-being. Throughout “Ignorance is Bliss,” Kendrick urges listeners to take action and become more socially and politically aware to bring about change.

4. “Monster Freestyle”

“I’m the best rapper alive, Tell Wayne to swallow his pride/Y’all niggas talkin’ that jive/I’m talkin’ that Malcolm X, Martin Luther hustles through to dip right through your fucking set I’m the best rapper alive! I’m the best rapper alive”

“Monster Freestyle” was never officially released as a song, but it was made as a freestyle and released on the internet. The track features Kendrick Lamar rapping over the instrumental from the song “Monster” by Kanye West, Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver.

Kendrick showcases his lyrical abilities in the song and references various famous cultural figures.

5. “I Am (Interlude)”

“Ooh wee, that boy remind me of a young Martin Luther/The way he piece up troopers, then round up shooters/Like Malcolm X did, stand for what believe in/Family, God and honor/From Chicago, my daddy and my momma”

“I Am (Interlude)” is featured on his 2010 mixtape “Overly Dedicated.”

The song is a thoughtful and self-reflective track where Kendrick Lamar speaks about his struggles and challenges growing up in Compton and how he has used his experiences to become a successful rapper and artist.

He also touches on identity, self-worth, and the importance of staying true to oneself. “I Am (Interlude)” is a powerful and emotional track highlighting Kendrick’s lyrical prowess and ability to speak candidly about personal experiences.

By studying Kendrick Lamar’s music, fans can gain a deeper understanding of the struggles and accomplishments of Kendrick, as well as Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights Movement. Kendrick’s music examines the black experience and makes a powerful call to action for social justice and equality.

Honoring MLK on his federal holiday, January 16th, is vital because it allows us to reflect on his legacy and the progress made in the fight for racial equality while acknowledging the work that still needs to be done.

It also serves as a reminder of the potency of peaceful protest and the importance of doing what is just, even in the face of resistance. By taking the time to honor Martin Luther King Jr. on his holiday, we not only pay tribute to his memory but also recommit ourselves to the ideals he fought for and work towards a more fair and equitable society for all.